Halloween Baby

Our son Aaron was born in the CIMA hospital in San José today, after 37 weeks of pregnancy, at 14:37 local time, October 31, 2013, by Caesarean section. He's tiny - 47 cm and 2300 g - but vivacious and hungry, and appears to be healthy despite his size. His weight seems to be mostly in his balls, which are bigger than his penis. His feet are tiny, and he arrived into the world with a head of dark hair, just like his momma.

We expected he'd be premature, but we didn't expect it would have to be by C-section. Towards the end of the pregnancy, ultrasound showed calcifications in the placenta. According to the ultrasound specialist, these calcifications were signs of an intrauterine infection, which could have resulted from a week of a flu-like illness which Jana experienced in August. There was a low level of amniotic fluid, and the baby had been behind with weight progression for a while. Since the amniotic fluid is composed to a large extent of the baby's own urine, the gynecologist interpreted its low level as a sign that the baby wasn't getting the nutrition it needed. He recommended that Aaron would be better off outside, and that a C-section would be preferable to induced labor, because dilation hadn't yet taken place.

(Edit: According to another doctor we heard from, calcifications are as expected in late-stage pregnancy as wrinkles in an 80-year old woman. She argues that a lower than average weight is still normal, and a low level of amniotic fluid has no relationship to the nutrients the baby is getting. The CTG results were perfectly normal, so she thinks the C-section was unnecessary.)

Jana received epidural anesthesia, which was administered painlessly, and was awake throughout the procedure. I held the baby for about an hour after he was born, waiting for the mommy to come out of surgery, experiencing a variety of emotions, but mostly awe.

Jana and Aaron are now in their room at the hospital, where I'm returning shortly with some goodies.

The mommy's first look at Aaron

First time in his mother's arms

In the room now, and hungry!

Edited to add: Day #2

With daddy!

At home. :-)


Couple Privilege

I found this awesome blog article describing couple privilege. It's literally the top search result for that search phrase, and for good reason. I've been irked by people expressing opinions that derive from couple privilege for years now, but I never had a coherent name for what they're doing, let alone what's wrong with it. This is the first time that I find such a stunning, exhaustive, concise explanation of what couple privilege is, and why it isn't a good thing.

The part that speaks most loudly to me is from Part 3 onward.


Mad Men vs. Breaking Bad

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the person who got Jana and I to start watching Mad Men. You know who you are. Thank you.

We started watching Breaking Bad before Mad Men. Whereas we've already consumed all 5 Mad Men seasons available to us through Netflix, we've hardly progressed past Breaking Bad season 2. The following are the reasons.

Mad Men has brilliant character development. Each character is multifaceted and shown in a variety of situations, exposing their depth. Breaking Bad has static, two-dimensional characters, who always have the same problems, the same shallow relationships, and behave the exact same way.

Mad Men follows what might be plausible life stories of professionals in the 1960s. The narrative develops naturally, one never has the impression it's contrived or forced. Despite that, the story manages to be titillating, interesting, amusing, thought provoking, and diverse; sometimes stunning.

In Breaking Bad, the narrative is contrived and forced. The characters keep running into unnecessary, arbitrary setbacks, just so the story can reset itself, and keep going. The characters don't learn from their mistakes; they don't improve. The relationships between them don't change. They just keep bumbling about and falling over themselves, in one incident less probable than the other, just so the story writers don't have to shift gear, and events can continue to unfold in the same pattern.

Mad Men is about mastery of script with subtlety and nuance. Breaking Bad is about as subtle as a jackhammer, and about as nuanced as a nail in the head.

We're currently stuck at a Breaking Bad episode where the characters experience yet another arbitrary, completely contrived setback, just so the status quo can be prolonged for another few seasons. Meanwhile, we can hardly wait for Mad Men season 6, when it comes out on Blu-Ray. Or even season 3 of Game of Thrones.

Edit: Several months later, we finally gathered the willpower to keep watching Breaking Bad, and it surprised us. It went in a much better direction than we feared. I posted a retraction of the above here.


Louisa Leontiades - "My Problem With Monogamy"

The following is an excerpt from a post by Louisa Leontiades, which corresponds with my views on the topic:

My Problem With Monogamy - Comfort Instead of Happiness

Everyone asks why. Why take the risk of having an open relationship when you have children? They perceive open as 'non-committed'. Why take the risk of being polyamorous when you are so happy together? They perceive polyamory as a selfish choice rather than a realistic choice supporting an inclination. Rather than argue those misconceptions, my answer is this.

The reason we are so blissfully happy is because we have an open relationship. Being monogamous is a horrible risk. And for us at least, a greater one than polyamory.

Monogamy is designed to keep couples together by creating barriers of exit; socially; financially and psychologically. One cannot look at the divorce statistics to ascertain how successful it is; this only proves how many couples remain married. Not how many couples remain happily married... Judging by how many marriages now end in divorce since it became more socially acceptable, that's not many over the long term. Nor does it show how many couples are monogamous by law and yet have some element of infidelity within their configuration, be it emotional or physical.

No. In the final analysis, statistics mean very little (and being a financial analyst by trade, I know that underlying motivations for variance can tell a completely different story). I cannot, and will not prove anything to anyone with statistics.

People may choose to be monogamous or polyamorous. But the monogamous system has evolved from a principle involving control and property/resource management. It has not stemmed from values of freedom, acceptance and love. To my mind a system which has evolved freedom, acceptance and love sounds far better than a system which is grounded in control and property/resource management. We are a culture who tries to assuage uncertainty and establish boundaries to control our fear. We are living in a fear based culture. And our society exemplifies this in numerous ways.



The doghouse: Costa Rican traffic accident law

Costa Rica has the stupidest traffic law I have ever seen. In the tradeoff between preserving evidence about an accident and avoiding congestion, Costa Rica firmly chooses the side of evidence preservation. In other words, if you're involved in any sort of traffic accident - however minor - you're supposed to leave the car exactly where it was, ignore the congestion this causes, and wait several hours for the police.

Just today, when returning from the shopping mall, it took us 20 minutes to overcome a distance of 250 meters, because of this:

The accident was absolutely minor; only the fenders on the cars were out of shape. Yet, these two cars stood like this, almost completely blocking a major roundabout, waiting for the police.

How anyone in Costa Rica thinks this kind of legislation is acceptable, is beyond me. Economic damage caused by the congestion is tremendous, and in most cases, by far exceeds the cost of the accident.

There might be a case of leaving the wreckage where it is if there's a major accident involving heavy injuries, but if people leave their cars in the middle of the road after a fender bender, the fines should be stiff.


Alpha, beta

I recently stumbled over a Reddit community called The Red Pill. The central tenets of this community appear to be as follows:
  • There is such a thing as an alpha male. The main trait of the alpha male is that he's confident, and doesn't fall for women. He doesn't let women use him. Instead, he uses them. In modern times, an alpha man would likely not be married.
  • According to The Red Pill, marriage is exploitation of men, and implies submission to the female. Laws are written such that (a) females have no repercussions if even after marriage, they still have sex with other men; (b) divorce benefits females through division of property that favors females, child custody that favors females, and alimony that favors females.
  • There is such a thing as a beta male. This is a guy who doesn't control women, but lets a woman control him. He puts a woman on a pedestal, buys her an expensive engagement ring, and marries her. The woman then proceeds to cheat on him, and he might get stuck raising children that aren't his. Eventually, she divorces him, gets custody of the children, and takes half of his property and half his future income, reducing him to the role of a slave, while she finds another guy to screw (over).
  • The beta male might have an ideal of romantic love, which The Red Pill argues women are unable to provide. According to The Red Pill, a woman's love is conditional, and dependent on circumstance. The beta male might yearn to commit to a female he can trust; someone he can open up to; someone who will support him when he is vulnerable. According to The Red Pill, women are physically incapable of this type of relationship. When the male shows vulnerability, instead of understanding him and supporting him, they will lose their attraction to him, and seek out an alpha male who is tough.
  • The alpha male knows to never seek emotional refuge with a woman. If he needs emotional support, that's what his male friends are for. To women, he knows he must always project toughness, and never let a woman think that she has influence over him. The minute he opens up and becomes vulnerable, he has become beta - a loser that the woman will manipulate, consume, lose respect for, and eventually discard.
Let's consider an example:
  • If a woman asks you for a favor, and your reaction is to be slightly miffed, and you ask her for something in exchange for you to provide that favor - you are in an alpha disposition towards her.
  • If a woman asks you a favor, and you jump at the opportunity to help her, as if the mere fact that she asked you is sufficient compensation - you are in a beta disposition towards her.
I find it sad to talk about all this, because for the most part, it is true. Yet, there are exceptions, and there are different ways of looking at it which I think do not support the cynical Red Pill conclusion - that a man should forever find satisfaction with a variety of casual partners, and never become attached.

Many of the Red Pill views are true in an obvious way. The person who cares less about a relationship has the power in it, and suffers less if the relationship suffers. It's attractive to argue that, if you can always be the person who cares less about a relationship, this will be the most advantageous to you. But is there really an emotional benefit to always being in relationships about which you don't really care? Where is the richness of experience? Isn't it boring to never care?

I would argue that a healthy balance of alpha and beta traits is crucial to a successful relationship. If I think of the relationship I have with my wife, my behavior towards her is mostly alpha. I usually decide about most things, and my opinion usually prevails. It's not uncommon that I go too far; I sometimes dominate so much that she feels put down. This makes me feel uncomfortable and regret my behavior. Yet, she is also my best friend. I can be vulnerable to her, and expect to find support and understanding. I can open up and talk to her, truly, about anything. And ultimately, I provide for her desires; even if the order, and the method, is up to me.

Beyond my primary relationship, I can probably say I've had a fair amount of experience with women, in a variety of ways - from hopeless infatuations, romantic relationships, friends with benefits, to encounters that were purely sexual. My experience, sadly, supports the Red Pill view: regardless of what I bring to the relationship, in no circumstance do I ever recall succeeding with a female that I put on a pedestal.

But if you can't put what you want on a pedestal... what good is getting it? The sad conclusion of the Red Pill is that if you want it, you can't have it; and when you know how to have it, you don't want it. This might be the rule - but if you don't work to find an exception, it seems to me you might as well not live.

Finally, there's another reason I feel the Red Pill views are distorted: the misguided emphasis they put on sexual fidelity. I very much do not believe in strict monogamy - I've previously written about that.


Disabling hot keys in Windows 8 using AutoHotkey

I have written previously about my disappointment with the design direction of Windows 8.

One of the most annoying "features" of this new Windows are the plentiful hot keys for things I really don't need, including WinKey + Enter (starts Narrator), WinKey + Plus (starts Magnifier), and of course the classic, the Windows key itself. When playing a game - I play World of Warcraft - it's very easy to press the Windows Key by accident, helpfully replacing your entire screen with the Start Menu, usually when it's needed the least.

I finally downloaded AutoHotkey to solve these problems. The following is the script I use:

; Disable WinKey + Enter (Narrator)
#Enter:: return

; Disable WinKey + Plus/Minus (Magnifier)
#+:: return
#=:: return
#-:: return

; Remap the Start menu to WinKey + S
#s:: send {LWin}

; Disable WinKey when pressed alone
~LWin Up:: return
~RWin Up:: return

; Set NumLock state to always on
NumLock:: SetNumLockState, AlwaysOn

; Disable extra mouse buttons being sent to Firefox (they act as Forward and Back)
; Disable Ctrl+W - closes current tab, frequent work destroyer during text editing
#IfWinActive ahk_class MozillaWindowClass
XButton1:: return
XButton2:: return
^w:: return

I prefer to have my NumLock state locked to remain always on. Your preference may vary.

To have a script like this start automatically:
  1. Save the script somewhere and give it an .ahk extension.
  2. Press Ctrl+C with the script file selected in Windows Explorer.
  3. Open the Windows Startup folder. On Windows 8, you can get there via Start menu > type "shell:startup" > Enter.
  4. Right click and select "Paste shortcut".
AutoHotkey will now run in the background with this script whenever you log into Windows.

Edit 2015-03-17: Added section to disable extra mouse buttons (mouse buttons 4 and 5) being sent to Firefox. It's super frustrating how an accidental squeeze of those buttons discards any work you might have been doing in the browser window - and this behavior cannot be turned off in the browser.


Slow download on MSI laptop with Killer network cards

I've written recently about my limited satisfaction with my new laptop, an MSI GT70.

Another problem I discovered recently was that download speeds were limited to 1.5 Mbps. Since this slow rate persisted regardless of whether I tried the wireless or Ethernet connection, I thought the blame was with my ISP; but after extensive testing, it turned out that other laptops were able to get better speeds, up to 15 Mbps, through the very same connection. It was only my MSI laptop that was seeing very low download speeds. Interestingly, upload speeds appeared to be unaffected, and the download speeds were also fine when using USB tethering through my smart phone, which used the same internet connection, but bypassed the Killer network cards.

Eventually, it turned out that I needed to install a driver update for the Killer network cards (both wireless and Ethernet) that come with the MSI laptop. I was able to download new drivers here. After removing the old drivers and installing new ones, I'm now seeing download speeds I expected to see.